Boiling point reached. Rant required.

December 13, 2011 5 comments

Hooookay. Time for a rant post:

So it’s my fault I was born ten weeks premature and as a result have a screwed-up set of lungs and immune system.

So even though I eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight (my BMI is 19.1, body fat percentage 17% +/- 2% and I’m female), take my medication regularly, and exercise 8-20 hours a week depending on health and season, I don’t know how to take care of myself.

Even though I haven’t so much as gone to the movies in a year and a half, my clothes are all at least two years old, and I work three jobs, I just don’t know how to budget for my meds.

So even though people with chronic illnesses have a lot more stuff to juggle than the average person including much higher monthly expenses and more absences due to illness from our work (unless we’re willing or forced to work sick due to financial concerns, which makes our recovery times longer and our work performance worse, which in turn lowers our chances of raises/promotions), there’s “no reason” we shouldn’t be doing as well as healthy people and any attempt for us to point out otherwise means we’re lazy.

So even though most of us are managing – barely – to keep our heads above water, we should shut up and listen to the ignorant blatherings of self-superior know-nothings who preach to us from their couches and fast food meals. Forgive me if I find that a bit hard to swallow.

Because you might find this sentiment a little too subtle for your tiny little brain, here’s it in plainer English: STFU about people who are chronically ill somehow bringing it on themselves. STFU about how if I’d just eat better/exercise more/live more hypoallergenically/buy into your fad diet/buy into your bunk du jour/eschew all technology and go raise yaks in the great Canadian tundra up North/whatever, my asthma would go away, my allergies would disappear, I’d sweat diamonds and piss gold and shit silver and my farts would smell like fucking roses. Stop making a judgement – without even knowing me, without knowing how much time I spend in the gym or what I eat or without even knowing my god-damned first name – that I caused my own asthma by being fat (I’m not), lazy (I’m not), and living an unhealthy lifestyle (I don’t). What exactly did I do to be the cause of my illness? Is being born something worthy of living life forever sick now?

Don’t tell me that I don’t know proper money management when I’m working three jobs to pay for medications that even with my god-damned work insurance cost more per month than I spend on food and rent combined.

Don’t you sit there on your couch with your stupid fast food and tell me around a mouthful of chips that those sick people bring it on themselves by not taking care of themselves. You. Fucking. Hypocrite.

When you’ve gone from a 12-hour shift at one job to a two-hour shift at another to a two-hour shift at a third and made your way home light-headed and headachy because all you ate was breakfast because you didn’t have time to make lunch and buying food would mean missing a medication, then we’ll talk. When you’ve sat there and watched your mom cry in the ER because you’re five years old and the doctors can’t figure out what to do so that you’ll get enough air that your lips will stop being blue, then we’ll talk. When you’ve listened to your sister fight with her parents over donating an organ to her best friend who’s dying of an auto-immune disease she developed at the age of 12, then we’ll talk. When you’ve seen your cousin fall down a flight of stairs five times and shrug off any attempts at help as she forces herself up on legs with too-short tendons that don’t follow her brain’s commands properly, then we’ll talk. When you’ve seen your best friend trip over a chain that she couldn’t see because her retinas are slowly dying, then we’ll talk. When you’ve talked someone with a mental illness off the figurative edge, then we’ll talk.

Until then, you can keep your damn mouth shut, you sanctimonious, callous, self-righteous assholes.

That is all.

Context: A lot of chronic illness-related pet peeves hit in the past two weeks. Need to let off steam, lest I say something like the above at full bellow in or near my workplace. I like my job, so I’ll say it here instead.

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Story of the past two years of my life:

Scientific Method In Theory:

Scientific Method In Practice:

Notice how a lot more of them end with “You messed up, do it again?” or “it didn’t work, start over”?

Yeah. That’s 99% of science. At least in my experience.

Science: Not for the easily frustrated.

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Update and a question

November 1, 2011 2 comments

Haven’t been on in forever because I’ve been too busy writing my thesis. It’s coming. Slowly.

Sick today with some sort of stomach badness. Feels like Dad described Coxackie to feel. Crappy.

In other news: I will write on this when I have time at some point… however, would like to see what people think on it so I can help formulate my argument: When it comes to shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef, which often feature women trying to excel in male-dominated fields, what do you think about the women for whom their gender is an issue? IE, what do you think about the female contestants who say something along the lines of, “I want to do this to show that women can be good” or “I want to do this for the girls”  ?

Context: My boyfriend expressed that he’s irritated with women like that because, in his words, “If you’re really good, gender doesn’t matter.” Full disclosure: I disagree with him on it (for a number of reasons, which I’ll expand on in the forthcoming post). Interested to see what other people think before I formulate my post.

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Random thoughts & stuff.

August 29, 2011 1 comment

My Symbicort trial is going well. So far, it seems I’m less well-controlled than the first month of the summer, but about as well-controlled as later-on in the summer, after I hurt my knee. The proof will come next month, in the first round of Fall colds.

My knee is finally showing real progress. Recap: I injured it in June, and for a while there it seemed like it was going to hurt forever. Complicating things was the fact that it seemed every doc I saw was going on overlapping vacations. Anyway, after a while, I was diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome (aka chrondomalacia patella). After a month of following appropriate treatment, I was still in serious pain a lot of the time and hadn’t really made any progress in three weeks so a doc referred me to a pedorthist, thinking that my horrendous overpronation probably had something to do with my slow recovery.

So I shelled out $375 (plus tax) for custom orthodics. Still waiting on insurance for that one. However, the important part is that they did the trick. My leg was noticeably better the day after I started wearing them, and for the next two weeks each day came with a noticeable improvement in the knee. Now, I’m still in recovery (leg hurts if I get too ambitious in the day), but I’m allowed to start weaning in re-conditioning, and I have a set of stretches and exercises to do to prevent this from ever happening again. If I’m compliant with the new regime and take it v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y for weaning in new activity until the knee’s back to 100% (yeah, foreign concept for me, I know XD), I shouldn’t ever experience this again, and I shouldn’t have any lasting harm to the knee. It adds about 15 minutes to my day and another 20 minutes after each workout – not too horrible when you consider that I can multitask and watch TV or cook some supper as I do it. I look a little silly to my roommates, I’m sure, when I’m stirring pasta and doing standing leg lifts, but it keeps it from being boring.

Work-wise, I’m coming up on the unofficial deadline I set myself for at least having enough results to start writing my thesis and definitely starting to feel the pressure since I feel like I’m nowhere near having enough results (there are many, varied reasons for that, I won’t go into them here because some of them are protected by an NDA and the others I don’t feel like rehashing). Suffice to say that my research has been governed by Murphy’s Law on steroids: Everything that could go wrong, has, and more often than not the solutions to what went wrong caused other things to go wrong. I feel like I’ve been bashing my head against concrete for 2 years, and my confidence is definitely suffering. People tell me not to take the lack of progress personally (since it’s obvious I put the time in and the only problem that was foreseeable I hadn’t the experience to be able to foresee at the time – and it wouldn’t have been my job to foresee it anyway), buuut I’m the sort of person that I find it hard to do. If I could divorce my feelings from this, I’d probably be better off… but then if I didn’t care as much, I probably would’ve given up on getting my MSc a year ago.

I keep pushing because the alternative is to quit, and that frankly is not an option for me.

In other less depressing news, I’m applying to med schools. If I succeed, yay. If not, there’s a few things I can do to pay the bills for a year before I try again (military is one option – my knee should be back to normal by then – and another option is substitute teaching). In either event, I’d want to be close to a university so I could pick up a few physiology and/or advanced biochem courses during the year… I’m hoping I get in, but I’d rather have a contingency plan if I don’t.

And all that is, in a nutshell, where I’ve disappeared to for most of the past month. I severely doubt I’ll be any less busy next month, so expect updates to be sparse for the next little while (unless I get sick and need to whine, anyway :P).

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Haaappy Biiiirthday tooo Meeeee!

August 6, 2011 2 comments

Yep, today’s my birthday. To celebrate, I had a drink and gave myself permission to take the evening off med school applications.

My boyfriend’s mom gave me a shirt she bought for me in the States, and holy crap American sizes are big! It’s a flipping extra small and hangs off me like it’s about three sizes too big – and it’s supposed to be form-fitting.

I’m not super-tiny. I’m no anorexic waif: My body weight is 130lbs (I’ve gained a bit due to knee-induced inactivity). In Canada, I’m a medium.

Who the heck makes American clothes? O.O I’ve heard of vanity sizing, but that’s kind of ridiculous!

Annnnnyway. Please ignore any disjointedness: I’m about the biggest lightweight ever so posting this two hours after my one happy birthday drink was probably not the greatest idea in the world.

Now, off to continue the celebration by playing video games and generally spending my evening doing something -other- than reading scientific literatrue and/or panicing over med school applications!

Don’t worry, I’ll ahve a real party tomorrow. With cake, even. 🙂

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MCAT and family visit

August 3, 2011 2 comments

So, I went to write the MCAT last weekend (yeek!). I’m not allowed to talk about any content or any of the questions (they make you sign a contract so I suppose if I broke it I could be sued or something), so I’ll settle with a breakdown of the day:

5:30: Wake up. Try to get changed, pack lunch and scarf breakfast  on a sour-from-nerves stomach in a quiet trailer without waking up my sick neice or my sleeping sister. Succeed, surprisingly.
6:30: Catch taxi to test center.
6:45: Arrive an hour and 15 minutes early – no problem. I wanted to be this early. Debate going for a coffee. Decide it wouldn’t be wise as I have the sense of direction of a blind spanner. And yes, I realize that a spanner is inanimate.
6:55: See Attractive Test Monitor. He tells me they’ll be opening at 7. Cool beans. Pick up a paper to read.
7:10: Wonder if ATM was perhaps running late.
7:15: Wonder if ATM forgot us. A sizeable crowd of panicy prospective med students is gathering. Tension mounts.
7:25: They let us in. The collective sighs of relief could probably be heard across the street.
7:30: First person registered = first person to wait in line to have my fingerprints taken.
7:35: First person to get fingerprints taken = first person to wait in line for the test to start. Shoot the breeze with other students as we all lie flagrantly about whether or not we’re nervous, how prepared we feel, etc. Half-jokingly speculate that they purposefully make it an exercise of ‘hurry up and wait’ to extract the maximum stress from the situation. Exchange histories. Discover I’m the only chemist of the group.
8:15: They start the test while half the people still have to be registered. Those folks will still be given the full time.

First section went well. Felt confident. Almost laughed at a few of the easier questions. Finished with a half hour to spare, which I used to review and make absolutely sure that my test was as good as I could make it. Take the break, ate an apple.

Second section went well until the last passage, which made my head hurt from poor writing, though considering the high standards of writing on everything else, I somehow think that was intentional. Nevertheless, I finish feeling confident, with about fifteen minutes for a quick double-check of my answers. On break, eat some cereal.

Third & fourth sections are right down to the wire. Finish with a minute and change on the first and literally 37 seconds left on the clock for the second. Yeeeek. Little rattled, but I think the answers I gave were good and well-thought out. Thirsty and hungry and starting to lose steam, so take my break to go grab some water and scarf another apple. Also need to calm down and reset my bearings for the final test.

Final section: Okay. Better than third and fourth for time, as I had ten minutes left for review and double-checking, but felt very uncertain on a couple questions, where I basically had to cross off the answers I knew were wrong and then flip a coin. One of which was maddeningly irritating as I’d studied the material literally two days prior, and could even remember the exact diagram, but just not the stupid text to go with it. Still, finished feeling solid on most questions, and as for the rest, well, hopefully the other sections will make up for any weakness.

Sometime in the early afternoon (I’d totally lost track of time at this point, and was basically going through the test in a focused state such that such minor considerations like when the people beside me got up for their breaks, conversations in the room, and the time may as well not have existed for all the attention I payed them) I finished up with an apple and a bit of cereal to spare. I was consistently one of the first done for more sections than not – which I don’t stress over, since that’s how I test. I read very quickly (I can read and absorb about 350 pages of light reading or 200 pages of academic reading in about an hour) so I usually test quickly in comparison to most people, not because I give less thought to the questions but because absorbing what they’re asking takes me less time than it does for most people. Because of that, I’d worry about my mark if I didn’t finish in the front of the pack.

After I was done, I went to start my real visit with my sister and neice. I first taxi’d to my sister’s place of work (and felt very proud to see her looking at home and confident at work). She said it makes her feel like a “real” scientist where she works… I think she already is a real scientist – in her second year, she has more experience than many upper-year undergrads. 🙂

My neice is very cute, as usual. I’m astounded by how good a vocabulary she has, and kinda felt sad because the poor thing was getting over her zillionth serious infection this summer (walking pneumonia this time, osteomyelitis about three weeks ago, etc – she’s been to the ER about every three weeks all summer long, and been admitted about half of those times. 😦 ), and she’s wiped out and exhausted. She seems to get sick worse and more often than most kids her age – so my sister’s running the medical gauntlet to see if there’s any reason behind it or if it’s just a continuation of our extended family’s crappy medical luck.

Other than concern over my neice’s poor health, we had fun despite the weather’s best attempts to rain on the parade. On my last day there, my sister took me to the farmer’s market, and I oggled enviously the cheap prices for veggies – less than half the price compared to here! It gave me the kick in the behind necessary to start getting up early on Saturdays and see if maybe I can find deals even half as good at the farmer’s market in my local area.

As for the knee, it was doing really well… until Monday when I flew into a productivity tornado and decided to try to catch up on 5 weeks of neglected housework all at once. So still a little sore from that (oops), buuuut nowhere near as sore as two weeks ago and I think with some care for the next couple days I can get myself back to where I was on Sunday.

And, that was my weekend! Now I have to go home to see about getting food.

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Asthma clinic and potential Symbicort switch?

So, I went to the asthma clinic, and my RT is thrilled with my day-to-day control (before-ventolin PFTs were down about 10%, post ventolin brought them up to my norm, but the weather’s been funky and I’m coming down with something so I’m not surprised), but not so keen on the fact that if I get a cold, there’s about a 1/3 chance I’ll end up on pred – which goes up to about a 3/4 if there’s some other trigger going on at the same time. If the other trigger is pollen, it’s pretty much a guarantee. In her words, if my mainenance regime is doing what it should be doing, I shouldn’t be ending up on pred this much. Especially since my PFTs are so awesome when I’m well.

Sooo, she’s put in a recommendation to my GP that we change something up. We’ve tried adding in steroid (that was what trial of adding in alvesco as a control med in addition to yellow zone med was for), but I’m on tonnes of inhaled stuff already so it doesn’t make that much of a difference (though I maintain it probably made a bit of a difference for tree pollen season, but how much of that was my increased activity compared to the steroid, I don’t know, considering the control remained unchanged after I stopped the extra Alvesco). Alvesco on its own is not that good a yellow med considering that it takes about 2 weeks to reach full efficacy, by which point I’m either on pred already or it’s cleared up on its own.

Then consider that I was completely uncontrolled and quite ill, with no improvement in my PFTs until I got put on a LABA (my ‘best’ back then was less than half what it is now). So, the RT thinks that my issue might be reactive airways moreso (but in addition to) chronic inflammation, in which case, she said, I need extra LABA about as much as added ICS in a flare (though both are good). Sooooo she’s thinking to do something a bit different and switch me to Symbicort, possibly with added steroid if it turns out that I really need the high-dose inhaled steroids I’m currently on (equivalent to 1000-2000mcg of fluticasone, depending on whether I’m yellow-zoning or not).

Those who read my blog a lot might remember I brought this up with the doc ages ago because I was thinking it might be worth a try. My doc wasn’t fond of the idea because she’s not a huge fan of Symbi for some reason. I’m hoping she’ll reconsider now that she has the RT asking for it too, and I can give the Symbi a shot to see if it’ll prevent me from ending up on pred so often. Frankly, with PFTs as good as mine are, I shouldn’t be needing it as often as I do.

And as a final note: I’m coming down with something and lungs have started up their customary grumbliness, as have my sinuses. Yellow zone time. :\

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